Originally published in Issue 11, Fifty-First Year of The Minstrel (March 23, 2017). Click here to view the entire issue.
After only a year and half after graduation, ’15 alumna Anne Gurtowski opened her own business Apple Mill Bakery in Cullman, Ala.
“The bakery was my pipe dream for a long time, and I always thought if it ever happened, it would be a long way off. I’m really grateful that I have to opportunity to do this now,” says Gurtowski. “God is very generous.”
Gurtowski majored in marketing at DeSales and always liked the idea of starting her own business.
“Having classes in subjects such as accounting, finance, management, marketing and business law, has helped me to have a well-rounded approach to the small business world,” says Gurtowski.
Before deciding on opening a bakery, Gurtowski considered other businesses, but says baking was always her dream and held importance to her at a young age.
“My grandma would let me help her bake from the time I was old enough to hold the spoon or put sprinkles on her cookies. I grew up helping both her and my mom bake,” she says. “My mom definitely inherited Grandma’s love of baking, and they both passed it down to me. Some of my best memories growing up are with them in the kitchen.”
Many of Apple Mill Bakery’s recipes are from Gurtowski’s Irish grandmother and some of her recipe cards are written in her grandma’s hand.
Some of her grandma’s most iconic recipes include congo bars and crumbcake. Apple Mill Bakery’s cookie tins are the most popular item and are a great gift around the holidays. All of the bakery’s items are made from scratch and have no added preservatives.
“I think something is lost when food is made in large factories with a lot of added ingredients. The people element is missing,” says Gurtowski. “I want my customers to know that real people who care about what they do make the food.”
Before opening the bakery in November 2016, a lot of work and planning needed to be done. There are many health regulations that need to be met, accounts to set up, paperwork to file and construction of the commercial kitchen.
Gurtowski says opening a business was full of new challenges, but has advice for young entrepreneurs.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t open your own business; you’re too young and you don’t have the experience. Just try it. You’ll never know if it will work unless you try. It’s all a process and a learning experience.”
“I think it’s important to find what makes you happy in life and pursue it. Find a way to do what will make you feel fulfilled at the end of each day,” she adds.
Currently, Apple Mill Bakery is housed in a commercial kitchen, but Gurtowski is hoping to move into a full-fledge storefront in the future. Right now, business is mainly done on their Etsy, which can be reached at applemillbakery.com, and also local farmers’ markets.
This spring the bakery will widen the reach of local farmers’ markets, which are expanding and growing in popularity.
“People want to buy local, support small businesses, and know exactly where their food is coming from. It’s a good match for our commitment to fresh, made-from-scratch food,” says Gurtowski.
They are also looking into various wholesale opportunities, such as becoming a supplier to local restaurants.
As a small business owner, Gurtowski enjoys the variety and different hats she gets to wear.
“On Monday, I could be doing R&D [research and development] for new products. By the time Friday roles around, I’ve been a food photographer, lead marketing manager, and as always, head baker, which is my favorite role,” she says. “It’s a lot of work, but I wouldn’t change it.”
Gurtowski is thankful for her family who has been very involved in the process of opening Apple Mill Bakery and loves that she gets to share her passion with the rest of the world.
“Baking to me is an extension of family life,” she says. “Food brings people together.”
For DeSales students and alumni interested in purchasing from Apple Mill Bakery, use the code DSU10 for a special discount rate on applemillbakery.com.